It’s not poila boishakh (start of the lunar Bengali year) but this aam-porar shorbot takes me back to my childhood memories of that day. On poila boishakh every store opens a new account book (haal khata) to record the coming year’s sales. At the same time, they balance and close the previous year’s books. Regular customers are invited to stop by and treated to sweet and savory snacks (no doubt softening their minds before they are politely asked to pay their remaining debts to the storekeepers, which is a big help to the book-keeper who has to tally the credits and debits before the day is done). I don’t know much about the state of this custom nowadays, but when I was a kid, it was a pretty big deal. We got invitations from several different stores ranging from neighborhood grocers to cycle stands. To many of you cycle stands might be a new term, but not to people who used to or still commute daily from the suburb to the city for work or to school. These unique establishments were essentially valet-assisted bicycle garages right next to the suburban (or “local”) train stations. We parked our bicycles there and boarded the trains. There was a monthly rate which was cheaper than the daily rate. It was amazing how they knew almost every customer and their time of commute. They would park the bikes according to your time of arrival so that they don’t have to go through the entire lot to find your bike when you came to claim it. They used to get a little pissed off if you arrive at a different time than your usual time (if you had to do this, they preferred advance notice). This made sense, as you broke routine, they literally had to move hundreds of cycles packed like sardines in order of approximate return time to extricate yours.
When I was a kid, there were only a couple of cycle stands next to the station. Among them was Khan Cycle Stand, a large and pioneering establishment where my Baba used to park his bicycle every day. Being a veteran customer, he got the ‘haal khata’ invitation every year. Poila boishakh is usually around April 15th, when the summer has started showing its furious temper. I was an only child for a long time and used to accompany Baba to the stores. Among many other poila boishakh memories, the one which sticks in my mind like yesterday is the taste of the aam-porar shorbot served at Khan Cycle Stand every year. We never had aam-porar shorbot at home. Poila baisakh was the only day we had it and it tasted like heaven. After so many years, I wanted to recreate the aam-porar shorbot at home. I wish I could do it on Poila boishakh, but life in the United States does not always allow for such indulgences. I don’t think I can recreate the exact taste of that particular shorbot, but it tasted very good. Nostalgia always makes things taste better anyway. So, here you go, a small sip from a glass full of my childhood memories.
All you need is a couple of green mangoes, black salt, roasted cumin-coriander-red chili powder and sugar. Oh! And few ice cubes if you want it to be chilled.
Roast the mangoes on open fire, either on stove top or on charcoal. Roasting it in the oven might not give you the best result but if you cannot make it any other way, go for the oven. Roast the mangoes until the entire skin changes color becomes almost yellowish and feels mushy when touched. Cool it off and peel the skin. Scrape off the pulp and keep it in a container. I scraped it with a spoon. It gets really messy but it’s well worth the mess. You can keep the pulp in the refrigerator for few weeks if there is no water and the container is tightly closed.
When you want to prepare the drink, take a couple tablespoon of the pulp, add water, sugar and the black salt and give it a good stir. Check for seasoning. Keep it in the fridge for 15-20 minutes or more to chill the drink. Take it out, add the roasted powder, few ice cubes and drink it. If you use ice cold water, you can avoid the chilling part. Trust me, it tastes heavenly on a hot summer day.